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Duct Tape Can Help You Keep Trying Even Though You’re Scared

(It can. Amazing stuff, really.)


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As Seen On

I fell outside recently.  Not once, but TWICE.  Within 10 minutes.  Both total faceplants.  Both in public.  I was fortunate that people helped me and that I didn’t get hurt (other than my feelings…those were really hurt).  Scared the devil out of me, though.  I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t.  It really made me think, though…I thought about some things that I hadn’t really faced since…well, since the last time that I’d fallen, and that had been quite a while back.

MS is scary, and it can be scary every day.  On some sub-conscious level, that fear always lives with us, but it tends to stay at bay as we go about what we do in our lives and do our best to work towards the life that we want.  But, every once in a while, something happens that catapults that fear back up to the conscious level (“Hey, remember me??”) and we find ourselves in a face-off.  Perhaps it’s an exacerbation, a brand new symptom appearing, or an epic fall like the ones I just had; but, whatever it is, we are then faced with a choice—We can allow the incident to completely derail us and retreat back into living smaller than we’d like, or we can choose to keep trying to live the life that we want.

When I fell, I was on my way to my friend’s birthday party at a restaurant after an unreal odyssey of hours lost to paratransit and other transportation drama trying to get there.  The first fall happened when I was finally “home free” within sight of the restaurant’s entrance.  The second fall happened right inside the front door of the restaurant (because my cane got damaged in the first fall…long story).  Both times, I was horrified and terribly shaken up.  I was literally scared to take each next step because my fear of falling again was so great, plus I was feeling emotional fallout from the back-to-back public spills (I had drawn a crowd on a busy NYC street) and needing help to get up because I couldn’t do it on my own.  Double ugh.  I could have simply called my friend to explain what happened and gone home.  Nobody would have faulted me for that.  It was a tempting thought, but I mustered my voice of inner truth to drown out the fear that had started trying to take over.  And that inner truth told me a couple of important things… 

The first thing it made me realize was that the level of fear that had kicked up was not just about the falls that had just happened.  That level of fear was about every scary thought I’d ever had and every doubt, fear, and defeat I’d ever experienced since the first day I’d been diagnosed with MS.  You know how they say that our reaction to a certain event isn’t usually just about that event, but is loaded with the weight of EVERY time we’ve experienced something similar in the past?  Well, that’s absolutely true.  And all of that is exactly what crept up on me in that split second that I considered just giving up and going home, even though I was literally just steps away from my goal destination. 

The second thing it made me realize was that neither fall had happened because some special problem with my legs that day was putting me in danger.  Both falls happened because of a cane problem—The first fall happened because my cane slipped down a grate opening, and the second happened because the grate had damaged my cane.  While, in the abstract, my falls had happened because I have MS just because I do need to use a cane, the truth is that the exact same thing could have happened to someone without MS who was just temporarily using a cane because of an injury.  That inner truth voice reminded me that I was okay and that I was going to be okay; I just had to be extra careful about paying attention in the future and find some way to finish the day safely, since I couldn’t replace my cane in a matter of minutes.

Enter duct tape.  It wasn’t my idea, but it was a brilliant solution brought to me by a thoughtful restaurant employee.  He did a masterful duct tape job so that the rubber tip on the bottom of my cane would stop sliding up and I would be physically safe while walking. 


And then I did some proverbial duct taping of my own.  Duct tape’s not just good for holding physical objects together, it’s also good to put over the mouths of toxic inner voices that don’t serve you.  I used it to muffle those voices that kept saying “See??”  and “You can’t” to me after I fell because those voices were also about something much bigger than the falls that I’d just had.  Those voices were about limiting me from doing anything in my life because I have MS.  Those voices were about saying that I would fail if I tried to go to a birthday party, have a social life, or anything else (you name it, just fill-in-the-blank).  Years ago, I listened to those voices.  Not any more and never again.  I’ve got my duct tape at the ready.

For my own peace of mind and as an extra safety precaution, I held the arm of the restaurant manager to escort me to my friend’s birthday table.  Then I shared the entire absurd story with everyone, which was both a therapeutic release for me and actually a good story because it was so ridiculous that it was humorous (since I didn’t get hurt, of course).  I really enjoyed the party.

I walked back from the table to the front of the restaurant on my own.

I have to make sure that my new cane will allow me to use my funky cane covers.  I think that I’ll have to keep the old cane with the duct tape for symbolic reasons.

What inner voices are keeping you afraid of trying?  Where do you think you can start using some proverbial duct tape?


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